The Love Hall Tryst: John Wesley Harding, Kelly Hogan, Nora O'Connor, Brian Lohmann.
Personnel: John Wesley Harding (vocals, guitar, hurdy-gurdy); Kurt Bloch (electric guitar); Jed Critter (mandolin, accordion); Mike Musburger (drums).
Audio Mixers: Wesley Stace; David Seitz.
Recording information: Chroma, Seattle, WA (03/28/2005-04/18/2005); Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY (03/28/2005-04/18/2005).
Photographer: Abbey Tyson.
The Love Hall Tryst, the side project from John Wesley Harding, finds the elegant and razor-tongued troubadour rubbing shoulders with British folk giants like the Watersons, the Copper Family, and A.L. Lloyd. A companion piece to his 2005 historical novel Misfortune, these Songs of Misfortune are sung mostly a cappella by Harding, singer/songwriters Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor, and Edinburgh-based comic/actor/baritone Brian Lohmann. The four voices blend remarkably well, utilizing the natural reverb of their abandoned Troy, NY, Savings Bank recording location like a cavernous tunnel beneath the Thames. This is classic English folk music with a twist. It's nearly impossible to pick out Harding's contributions amidst the arsenal of traditional ballads and folk songs, as his vernacular rivals that of Charles Dickens himself -- his highly Victorian novel revolves around a cross-dressing heir/heiress -- and while the instrumentation is sparse (there is the occasional hurdy-gurdy and two of the songs receive the full-on rock treatment at the record's end) and the themes dark with murder, treachery, and lust, there is a bawdy joy that radiates throughout. It's as if Harding and his co-conspirators were actually conspiring against something rather than painting in the audio portion of a grand fairytale, and it's a testament to their infective mischievousness that the listener so effortlessly gets swept right up along with them. ~ James Christopher Monger